Dordor, Ellis win inaugural Heartland Journalism Fellowships

WashU and River City Journalism Fund partner to support minority writers

Washington University in St. Louis undergraduate student Keona Dordor and St. Louis novelist Lyndsey Ellis are the inaugural recipients of the Heartland Journalism Fellowships.

Established by WashU and the River City Journalism Fund, the Heartland Journalism Fellowships support development of aspiring minority and underrepresented writers. During their yearlong residency, which begins Saturday, July 1, Dordor and Ellis will work with WashU faculty as well as staff of The Common Reader, a journal based at WashU, to produce long- and short-form journalism dealing with issues of race, ethnicity and equity. 

“The aim is to increase the number of minority investigative and long-form journalists,” said Gerald Early, the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters in the departments of English and of African and African-American Studies, as well as founding editor of The Common Reader.


“One fellowship is awarded to a local minority writer who is already a journalist or interested in becoming one to work on a local project over the course of a semester or a year,” Early added. “The other is for a WashU student, graduate or undergraduate, with similar ambitions who also is working on something or wants to work on something that is local or regional.”

Dordor is a rising senior majoring in urban studies, with a double-minor in writing and in religious studies, all in Arts & Sciences. She is also a Chancellor’s Career Fellow and a Gephardt Institute Fox-Clark Civic Scholar. Born in Accra, Ghana, she was raised in Nashville, Tenn., since age 9, when her family relocated to the United States. Her writing explores themes and issues of religion and the challenges facing her generation.

Ellis is a St. Louis native whose fiction and journalism have appeared in a variety of print and online publications. Her debut novel, “Bone Broth” (Hidden Timber Books, 2021), was a 2022 Friends of American Writers Literature Award winner and selected by Maryville University for use in the student curriculum. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English, and holds a master’s in fine arts from California College of the Arts in San Francisco.


The fellowships were initiated by the River City Journalism Fund, a new nonprofit that seeks to advance local journalism in St. Louis, in partnership with The Common Reader. Additional support and sponsorship are provided by: the Black Heartland Fund; WashU’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Equity; and the departments of African and African- American Studies and of English, and the Urban Studies program, all in Arts & Sciences. The River City Journalism Fund collected and evaluated fellowship applications. 

“One of the key ways that the River City Journalism Fund seeks to improve the local journalism landscape in St. Louis is to increase the opportunities available to talented writers from underrepresented backgrounds,” said Richard Weiss, chairman of the nonprofit. “It’s hard to dream up a better opportunity than getting to work with Dr. Early and The Common Reader on projects like these. We can’t wait to see what Lyndsey and Keona are able to accomplish.” 

For more information about the fellowships, contact Ben Fulton, managing editor of The Common Reader, at

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